November 28, 2023

The New York Times story covers a case of a doctor prescribing Saxenda (recently approved for weight loss) to a patient, who had coverage refused by her insurer over its “vanity” status. And in Stat, a genetic biotech firm says it can now sequence entire human genomes for just $100.

The New York Times:
The Doctor Prescribed An Obesity Drug. Her Insurer Called It ‘Vanity.’ 

Maya Cohen’s entree into the world of obesity medicine came as a shock. In despair over her weight, she saw Dr. Caroline Apovian, an obesity specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who prescribed Saxenda, a recently approved weight-loss drug. Ms. Cohen, who is 55 and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, hastened to get it filled. Then she saw the price her pharmacy was charging: $1,500 a month. Her insurer classified it as a “vanity drug” and would not cover it. (Kolata, 5/31)

A ‘Dark Horse’ Emerges In DNA Sequencing Race, Boasting A $100 Genome

Bay Area biotech Ultima Genomics on Tuesday claimed that its technology can sequence a whole human genome for $100, making it a surprise player in the race to read DNA quickly, accurately, and cheaply. The company didn’t provide specifics or immediately reply to an inquiry from STAT as to how it calculated that cost. But a $100 genome would represent a major drop in price, one that could help researchers unlock sequencing’s potential to unravel the mysteries of undiagnosed diseases, spot early signs of cancer, and better understand human health. (Wosen, 5/31)

Pricey Alzheimer’s Therapy Used Globally Has Limited Evidence To Back It Up

Looking more like a barber than a doctor, orthopedic surgeon Musa Citak squirted gel on on his patient’s head and massaged the gooey substance into his scalp as though it were shampoo. He then pulled out a handheld device and began sliding it across the side of the elderly man’s head. “This is shockwave therapy,” Citak explained. As he moved the device, it made rapid clicking sounds, each click a high-frequency sound wave intended to stimulate brain regions and, according to Citak, help regenerate cells and halt the rapid deterioration of the patient’s brain. (Moens, 6/1)

Modern Healthcare:
Providers Urge FTC To Probe PBM Practices

Providers want the Federal Trade Commission to investigate pharmacy benefit managers’ business practices, but PBMs and insurers say pharmaceutical manufacturers are to blame for sky-high drug prices. The FTC published a notice in February asking for input on how PBM practices such as rebates and fees, potentially anticompetitive contracts, and attempts to steer patients toward certain pharmacies affect patients and payers. The commission received more than 23,700 submissions by the time the comment period expired Wednesday. Providers wrote that PBMs engage in practices that decrease quality and threaten providers’ finances. (Goldman, 5/31)

Documents Show Problems At Novartis Facility Production Was Halted

Earlier this month, Novartis took the surprising step of voluntarily suspending production of two therapies that use nuclear medicine to target and treat cancer cells, and also halted clinical trials for one of the treatments. At the time, the company explained it was doing so “out of an abundance of caution” in order to “address potential quality issues identified in its manufacturing processes” at facilities in Millburn, N.J., and Ivrea, Italy. No further explanation was offered, although a spokesperson did acknowledge regulators cited the company last fall for issues at the New Jersey plant. (Silverman, 5/31)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *